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E \HANDLING AND OVERSEAS TRANSPORTATION / ; -
OF ACCLIMATIZED FOLIAGE PLANTS IN REEFERS' i
C. A. Conover and R. T. Poole
University of Florida IFAS
Agricultural Research Center .
Research Report RH-1983-1
Transportation of foliage plants in reefers is not new, since it has been
standard practice for the foliage industry since the 1950s. Generally, such
transport has been within the continental United States or to Canada, with
transport duration rarely exceeding 5 days. Product quality has been
satisfactory after shipping for 3 to 5 days provided reefer temperatures were
maintained between 60 and 70F, presently the suggested shipping temperature
for foliage plants. This shipping temperature range, however, was based on
grower preference rather than on scientific research.
During the early 1970s, foliage producers developed stock farms in Central
America and shipped cuttings and airlayers to the United States market. Most
of these shipments were by air, but some shipments of cane (leafless stems)
were made by sea. As loading systems were developed to transport entire
reefers, several innovative foliage producers started shipping by sea. Items
shipped were mostly cane and potted foliage plants, with some shipments of
cuttings. For the most part, these shipments were successful as long as shipping
duration did notexceed 7 days.
By 1980, shipments of potted foliage plants to the United States from
Puerto Rico and Hawaii were fairly common, but plant quality was reduced when
shipping durations exceeded 7 days. Reductions in plant quality were mainly due
to physical damage, leaf drop and desiccation. By 1980, interest had also
developed in shipping foliage plants to Europe and the Middle East, where shipping
durations of 12 to 30 days, respectively, could be expected to occur. Shipments
to Europe were generally successful, although even the best shipments required
considerable regrowingg" to restore quality, and some were lost in their entirety.
Shipments to the Middle East were generally unsuccessful, even though many plants
survived, because long regrowth periods were required.
Our research on shipping began in 1980 when we acquired facilities
necessary for simulated shipment experiments. Major emphasis was originally
placed on shipping durations of up to 2 weeks, but was changed to 4 weeks by
1981. In all our research we have used either acclimatized foliage plants, which
have been grown under specified light and nutritional levels to maximize their
adaptability to interior environments, or plants grown under other environments
to test against recommended levels. Preshipping and shipping factors that
influence long term shipability of foliage plants are as follows:
Light. Preshipment light levels have a strong effect on postshipment plant
quality. Plants grown under high light will not ship as well because they are
not properly acclimatized. This results in excessive leaf drop or other loss
of quality either in shipment or after placement in an interior environment.
Also, plants grown in higher light are not as likely to tolerate lower shipping
temperatures without sustaining chilling injury.
Nutrition. Preshipment fertilizer levels also affect acclimatization and,
in turn, subsequentinterior quality, but this is not often expressed during
shipment. Foliage plants grown on higher than recommended nutritional regimes
will not be well acclimatized and will ultimately lose more leaves and be of
lower quality than those properly acclimatized. However, serious reduction in
plant quality during the shipping phase will only be noticeable if the fertilizer
level is more than twice the recommended level.
Soil moisture. Low soil moisture during shipping periods increases
dessication of plant tissues and raises potential for leaf drop or injury. Plants
should be thoroughly watered approximately 24 hours prior to shipment and allowed
to drain before packing.
Season. Foliage plants grown during high light and high temperature periods
are less tolerant of the shipping environment and are more likely to decline in
quality during shipment. This may be due to lower levels of acclimatization or
inability to tolerate lowered shipping temperatures. It appears that plants
grown in summer and shipped then or in early fall will require warmer shipping
temperatures than plants grown and shipped in winter or spring.
Shipping Environment Factors
Light. All shipments to date have been made in darkness. Addition of light
during the shipping period might be beneficial, but incorporation into reefers
would be difficult.
Temperature. Controlled temperature at a level specified for the crop can
be a major factor in maintenance of plant quality. Shipping at tow temperatures,
45 to 600F versus 65 to 700F, can be beneficial in maintaining quality, provided
plants are not chill-damaged. However, we have found that the best shipping
temperature for specific plants changes with season, and is lower in winter and
higher in summer. Duration of exposure to a specific temperature can also
strongly affect plant quality, since a temperature that might be optimum for
2-week shipments might cause damage when plants are exposed for 3 to 4 weeks.
Humidity. Although all plants need to be thoroughly watered prior to
shipment, this will not prevent them from desiccating if humidity is too low.
We have found that a relative humidity level of around 85 to 90% in the reefer is
necessary for maintenance of foliage plants shipped for long durations. This
level can be obtained with boxed plants or when reefer air exchange controls are
set in the closed position with sleeved or open shipped plants.
Gases. Research on foliage plants has shown that ethylene is probably the
only contaminant that may occur in a reefer, unless it receives pollution from
an outside source. However, foliage plants require fairly high levels of
ethylene (1 to 2 ppm) and relatively high temperatures (650F or higher) for
long durations before any damage will occur. Experience has shown, therefore,
that ethylene does not seem to be a major problem when plants are shipped at
cooler (650F or lower) temperatures.
Based on our present level of knowledge concerning long-term shipping in
reefers, we feel it is a viable system and one which will achieve much greater
use in the future. We also feel that certain limitations apply: First, plants
to be shipped must be acclimatized and have a moist potting medium at time of
shipping. Secondly, high humidity must be maintained within the reefer at all
times, and lastly, temperatures must be specified for foliage crops to be shipped.
Suggested temperature ranges are supplied for some foliage plants in Table 1.
Table 1. Suggested shipping temperatures (OF) for acclimatized foliage
plants shipped in reefers for different time periods.
Duration of shipping
Plant name 1-15 days 16-30 days
Acoelorrhaphe wrightii 50-55 -
Aglaonema 'Fransher' 55-60 60-65
Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' 60-65 60-65
Ardisia crispa 50-55
Aspidistra elatior 50-55
Brassaia actinophylla 50-55 50-55
Chamaedorea elegans 55-60
Chamaedorea seifrizii 55-60
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens 55-65 60-65Y
Codiaeum variegatum 'Norma' 60-65 60-65
Cordyline terminalis 'Dragon Tongue' 60-65
Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig' 60-65
Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii' 60-65 -
Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' 60-65
Dracaena marginata 55-65 60-65Y
Ficus benjamin 55-60 55-60
Ficus nitida 55-60
Howea forsterana 50-65 50-65
PhiTodendron selloum 55-60
Phoenix roebelenii 50-55
Pleomele reflexa 60-65
Rhapis excelsa 50-55
Schefflera arboricola 50-55 50-55
Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa' 50-55 55-60
Yucca elephantipes 50-55 50-55
ZData not available, and it is not
shipment beyond 15 days.
known how they will tolerate
YPlants observed to lose quality beyond 15 days shipping duration.